SOUTH GOA — a hidden gem, not just for the beaches, but the food.
The first time I visited Goa was in 2014, my darling sister had taken me there for my 21st birthday (and what a birthday it was). Stayed at Anjuna, which was beautiful — much less crowded than what it is today. But this post is not about my first or many other fun visits to north Goa. This post is about the beauty that South Goa is, the two beaches we discovered, but most importantly — the food. That’s right, this is a little cheat sheet for all you foodies out there, specifically in Palolem, Cavelossim and Benaulim.
My husband and I picked up a self-drive car (by GoGoaRentals) from the airport and headed South. The car cost us INR11000 for 10 days. We had landed at 1pm, so obviously got super hungry on our way. Decided to go to one of the legendary (so we had heard) eateries called Martin’s corner in Betalbatim. It shuts down for lunch at 3:30pm, we got there at around 2:45pm and it was jam packed. Managed to get a server’s attention and I ordered my vegetarian pasta, while my husband was in his fish paradise. The starter nor sangria were worth a mention, but the red sauce pasta was great and the fish recheado was above average. The Bibinca (a local dessert) was phenomenal, totally worth the visit and I would highly recommend it. Do visit this joint if you’re nearby, not just for the food, but also for the vibe of the locals. One draught KF beer, one glass sangria, a small starter, my pasta and the fish main course cost us INR2000.
Post lunch we took off to our first stop, Palolem. It is a gorgeous crescent shaped beach lined with shacks. We stayed at the ecological village. It’s a bunch of cottages hosted by Rohan, a local who has done a fabulous job of creating a peaceful yet happening environment. The ecological village is the last shack on the beach, hidden behind humongous black rocks which gives you the best of both worlds — living bang on the beach, while staying away from the noisy shacks. We stayed in an AC sea view cottage, woke up to the sight out of the ocean right out our window, and enjoyed the therapeutic sound of the waves. The interiors of the AC cottage need a definite shoutout. I guarantee staying here again, after all Rohan’s creating a Maldivian experience at 1/10th the cost!
We walked up and down Palolem beach and were pulled in by the vibe of Art Resort. Run by a fellow pahadi, the cafe has live music on some nights, and we were lucky enough to witness one. Chilled out staff, good food and most importantly the best vibe on the beach. We did most of our breakfasts here — their smoothies and healthy juices were lip-smacking. Really enjoyed the aloo parathas and omelettes. A standard breakfast would cost us between 500–800. They have 1+1 on their cocktails between 5–7pm every night, a cocktail approx costs you 400. I made friends with the bartender Raj, whose Pina Coladas my husband enjoyed heartily. The dinner we did here cost us 2K which included 2 drinks, a fish curry with some rice, paneer gravy with naans and a dessert. A special mention to their tandoor section — I ate many of their cheese garlic naans as a starter, also noticed that most people around us ordered kebabs which are served with naan/roti. They have an in-house artist whose paintings are showcased (adds to the ambience of the place). We were very tempted to buy one of his creations, but decided against lugging it around for the next 7 days.
Rohit, my husband read up a LOT to find us the highest rated shack for lunch, Dropadi. It was hot. It was already 3pm. I could eat anything. I am grateful we went to Dropadi. I ordered some tandoori mushrooms and paneer while Rohit cherry picked his snapper and had it cooked in the tandoor. His judgement, “This is the best tandoori fish I’ve ever had”. I saw the meat fall off the bone and it smelt delectable. Must visit. 2 drinks, and our main courses cost us 2.5K.
Not very far from the beach, there is this cafe called Magic Italy run by an Italian family since 1999. I am a sucker for Italian food. I had to try it, and I am so glad we did. We went here for dinner, they had waiting on a Monday! After over 30 mins, we were finally seated. Without wasting any time I ordered some wine, a pesto pasta and their exotic mushrooms pizza. They use the best ingredients. The olive oil, the herbs, the cheese — the food was not only delicious, but also light. I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth while Rohit can eat 2 desserts, so we’re quite balanced there. Ordered the Tiramisu — light as air, the best Tiramisu I’ve ever had (and yes, I’ve been to Italy). Rohit had to fight me for the last bite. The whole meal cost us 2K, totally worth it. (Writing this has caused a craving for the tiramisu)
Last but not the least, Ourem 88. Quaint Bungalow nestled behind the shacks, a Brit couple has run this restaurant for a decade. The ambience calls for wine and their menu is exotic. I ordered a cheese soufflé while Rohit enjoyed his fish in a fabulous lemon butter garlic sauce. I had a salad on the side and he had some mashed potatoes. We were beyond full but were compelled to try out at least one dessert if not two. Torn between the apple crumble and chocolate soufflé, ordered the latter and were not disappointed. The entire meal cost us 2.8K. Must visit for a date night. Who would have thought there is a fine dining experience in the quite streets of Palolem.
Palolem is a swimmers paradise, calm waters that Rohit jumped into every day. We met Ashley who runs a kayaking service at the beach. He gave us the tip to kayak early in the morning as opposed to what most people do, kayak in the evening. We dragged ourselves out of bed the next morning (7:30am), found Ashley and hopped onto a brand new 2 seater kayak. It was such a serene experience, my first time kayaking and I couldn’t have asked for a better setting. Calm waters with barely anyone in it, butterfly island in the backdrop and the sun shining above us. We kayaked for a good 45–50mins which cost us INR400.
The next morning we took a boat ride to butterfly island and were fortunate enough to sight a dolphin at the dolphin point. The entire expedition was for around 2 hours and it cost us INR1500.
Our next stop was an hour north of us, a massive beach called Cavelossim. It’s surrounded by 5 stars such as Leela, Radisson. We chose to stay at a more modest Karma Royal Haathi Mahal. Our breakfasts and some lunches were covered by their in-house restaurant. Wasn’t a big fan. Having said that, the property is beautiful and the staff is extremely helpful. We were upgraded to the honeymoon suite, which had a huge terrace with a jacuzzi — little to complaint about.
Our first night we went to the very highly rated The Fisherman’s Wharf which had a live music night. Our server Rupin was super fun and helpful. I was starving — ordered a potato cafreal starter, one of the very few places that serve it. I was grateful to try a flavour that mostly non vegetarians enjoy. I stuck to paneer for main course and Rohit to his fish. Nothing to complain about, good date night food which we finished off with their most popular dessert, Seradurra. It’s a condensed milk Portuguese pudding with a topping of tea biscuits — very light, very yum. The food plus beers cost us INR2000.
We soon realised that most of the eateries we wanted to go to were around 20 mins away — in Betalbatim, Benaulim. But we always made time to explore these places for dinner. We kept our breakfast and lunch local to cavelossim, the shacks are half decent.
The Italian sucker in me dragged us to Goodfellas. Located in Benaulim, the restaurant had a very good vibe going. Our server (whose name I now forget) helped us narrow down our order, considering I wanted to eat everything. Some arrabbiata spaghetti and their house special pizza which was topped with goats cheese, homemade pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and spiced oil. It was delicious. I paired my food with a very yum pomegranate martini, Rohit had some feni (kazulo). We finished off with a pistachio mousse served on a bed of chocolate mud. Lip smacking. The meal cost us INR2200.
The next night we drove up to Fishka, Betalbatim. It’s a very modest looking joint with some amazing food. Along with the starters, I had a aloo curry with some naan, Rohit had an entire pomphret. We were too full to try out any desserts, everything was great and the meal cost us INR1500.
We spent the entire week exploring food, little did we know what was in store for us. It was our last day in Cavelossim, and like I mentioned it’s a huge beach with just a few shacks. Not very swim-friendly, the attraction here is of the water sports. From banana boat rides, to jet skis and my favourite parasailing. It cost us INR1000 per person, and was worth every penny. I was worried about the feeling of weightlessness, the fear of height etc. It all goes away as soon as the parachute takes off and you see the sun setting behind you, you feel yourself rising above and away from people, you experience the mightiness of the element air, with an unparalleled view. Three minutes of pure bliss. Worth every penny.
After such a wonderful evening, it’s almost as though the best was being saved for the last. Cavatina by Avinash Martins. Booked out on most nights, they don’t take people in without a reservation. We did not know that, but lucked out with the last table (cancellation). We were seated near the door but had no complaints. The chef is creating an experience, which is what food truly is about. You experience food with all of your senses, and he’s stayed true to that. You have 3 menus to choose from, we went the Á la carte way. Started the night off with tapas — I ordered sweet potato tapas served with tamarind chutney and yoghurt, Rohit had fish tapas served on a bed of salsa and bread. They have house infused fenis, the kokum one is highly recommended with Limca. For main course I had the wild mushroom spaghetti while Rohit enjoyed fish cooked in leaf served with a cashew sauce and a purée of beets. The food was exquisite. It looked spectacular and tasted even better. Now onto the dessert. They have homemade ice cream flavours such as salted caramel, baileys with mascarpone, neither of which we could try. We ordered their famous cherry chocolate cake, a little too sweet for me, but Rohit thoroughly enjoyed it. It is served with a side of vanilla ice cream. We were completely transported to a different realm for this food experience and would definitely recommend anyone in south Goa to try it. The meal cost us INR3200.
For the overall experience, I did enjoy Palolem a lot more than Cavelossim. Probably because I like smaller beaches, the shack vibe and the luxury to jump into the calm waters at any time. Palolem is still untouched in some sense, Cavelossim more commercial.
Next up, we trekked to Fort Tiracol — more about that in my next post :) ciao!